Battling with air, water … and furniture

Weeks twenty-seven to twenty-nine of our restoration project in Istria

As July finishes and August begins, the weather stays unusually hot and dry. The missing bedroom furniture arrives – with a twist (again!) – and I battle on with furniture assembly and dodgy air-co. But the heat’s taking its toll and then, when the water’s turned off …


Furniture: well, sort of …

Wardrobe in wrong colour in Kovaci, IstriaAmazingly, Sigi brings the final pieces of furniture – the master bedroom suite – on Monday, exactly as promised. And it’s wonderful … but not quite right!

“Before you say anything,” he says, bringing the wardrobe upstairs, “I know it’s the wrong colour, but the factory says they can’t get you the right colour until September. I’ll put this one up for now. You can use it for photography and we’ll bring you the right one in September.” (Writing in mid-November, it still hasn’t turned up!)


… but air-co, no

Just before P’s parents visited in June, I discovered the air-co in the master bedroom wasn’t working properly – or at least, I couldn’t get it to work properly. The system in the barn worked wonderfully – switch it on and gloriously cool air came rushing out, but in the master bedroom, it just seemed to move the air around.  I didn’t have time to sort it out then and wasn’t sure where the problem lay – with me or the machine – so shelved the issue.

Today, I decide, I’ll get a second opinion and ask Sigi. (I don’t have air-co at home, but they have it in their shop so, hopefully, he should know if the problem’s mechanical or human – well, that’s the theory.)

“Is this working properly?” I ask, pointing at the air-co unit. We’re both kneeling on the floor in front of it, working on our assembly projects (he, the wardrobe; me, a bedside table).  “No,” he answers, waving a screwdriver at the offending unit. “It’s just acting like a fan, recirculating the air.” Just as I thought.

Unable to resist a technical challenge, Sigi fiddles with the controls and … nothing. It seems the problem is mechanical, not human – damn! I’d really hoped it was me being a dork, not the unit malfunctioning. I’m now going to have to talk to Toni, convince him it’s bust and get the guys back to fix it. All in the middle of a heat wave, when they’re working flat out.  Wish me luck!

I call Toni. “The air-co in the house isn’t working properly,” I say. “Yes, it is. I tested it.” “No it isn’t. I’m standing in front of it and it’s just acting like a fan.” “Have you pressed the ‘cool’ button?” “Yes.” “It was working fine, when I tested it.” “Well it isn’t working now.” “Are you sure?” “Yes!” “I’ll come and check myself.” “When?” “Tomorrow.” I knew this wasn’t going to be easy!


Expert advice

While I’m assembling furniture, P’s been cleaning the pool. Finished, he comes to see how we’re getting on. “Why,” he asks, “are you working on the floor? If it was me, I’d have put up one of the garden tables downstairs and used it as a work bench. It would kill my back and knees, working like you are.”

P's work-table in Kovaci, IstriaHe has a point. While the breeze in front of the malfunctioning air-co is nice, my back is killing me. Proving his point, P quickly puts up one of the tables downstairs and assembles a bedroom chair.

“At last, with us both on it, we’ll see some real progress,” I muse. But I hadn’t considered the availability of tools. It’s really P’s tool kit and while he’s not possessive about it, he only has one of everything. Soon we’re squabbling over the ratchet screwdriver. Without more tools, assembling together won’t halve the time, as I hoped. Perhaps I should just stick with working solo.

Next morning, my phone goes. As promised, it’s Toni checking the air-co. His verdict is that it’s working fine. “I’m standing in front of it and it’s blowing air,” he says. “What more do you want?” I take a deep breath and try explaining – again. “It’s blowing, but not cooling the air,” I say, not sure how best to approach this. “I think it’s lost its coolant,” I add, in a touch of inspiration (well it seems plausible to me, who knows nothing about air-co). Toni’s highly sceptical, but finally agrees he’ll have the air-co guys look at it. “But it might take them a while. They’re rather  busy at the moment.”

Result!!! He’s agreed to call in the experts. I just hope they can work out what’s wrong – if they ever come.


Up-beat on loungers …

Just a few of the rubbish boxes from Kovaci, IstriaLast week, when R&S came to help christen the pool, I’d hoped to have loungers prepared for them. It didn’t quite work out. The flat-pack chairs I’d bought assembled fine, but as soon as we tried one, we realised they were totally unsuitable for a rental property. The mechanism was fiddly and it would be all too easy to trap little fingers: P nearly trapped his larger ones, trying one out. It was clear they’d have to go back, to be replaced by single-piece loungers and I knew exactly the ones I needed and where to get them (Slavica in Porec). Why I hadn’t bought them there in the first place, I’ll never know (except of course I do … I was bargain hunting. But this was a case of ‘you get what you pay for’).

As it’s mid-July, I’m stunned to find they still have ten in stock and, better still, can deliver them the next day! Even better, when they arrive they fit very neatly in their allotted space in the šupa – as if they were made to measure! I’m stunned – something’s worked for once!


… down-beat on watering

A hot, dry summer has followed a very dry winter and spring, so it is no surprise when, at the end of July, water rationing finally starts and all outside irrigation has to stop.

Sowing a lawn and planting a garden in summer in Istria is never a good idea and this year, I wondered, if it verged on insanity. But I’d had no choice. I needed to provide a garden for my guests and, even if they only come next year, it had to be ready this year for ‘summer’ promotional photos.

Garden dressed but lawn still a bit bald, Kovaci, IstriaBefore the watering ban, the irrigation system had ensured everything got a good start. Despite a few bald patches, most of the lawn is now well established and the rest of the plants look lovely, if rather small. It’s heartbreaking to think that in a few weeks, they’ll probably all be gone. Feeling close to tears and totally demoralised, I help P dress the garden with outside furniture and he snaps away.

As I can’t bear losing everything I’ve only recently planted, (photos taken), I carefully dig up the passionflower and honeysuckle and take them home with me for a little hand watering on the terrace (using waste water). The rest will have to fend for themselves. I wonder if anything will be alive by the end of the summer?


I quit

Without the driving need to meet a deadline (I’ve accepted we’ll have no guests in Kovaci this year), work is proving a hard slog in the heat. Now nature, and the Croatian government, also seem to be working against me and it’s proving just too much. I’ve taken the heat, the delays, wrong furniture and broken equipment, but this watering ban’s my final straw! “I give in,” I say. “I’m throwing in the towel – and the screwdriver – and going home. Enough is enough. I quit!”

And I do… until … next time


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